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Mayor Now Says There’s Interest In Building Arena Even Without Team

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Mayor Kevin Johnson said in a second consecutive press conference Wednesday on the future of the Kings that there’s now interest from investors in building a downtown arena even without the team.

Johnson did not reveal the deep-pocketed investors who would bankroll Sacramento’s bid to keep the team, the “whales” he said are interested in buying the team. He said that announcement could come in the next few days or earlier next week.

“We have had serious discussions and have made considerable progress,” he said.

He said there are multiple groups interested in buying the team. Reports have focused on billionaire grocer Ron Burkle and 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov. Burkle owns the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. Mastrov made a failed bid to buy the Golden State Warriors in 2010.

Johnson’s biggest news Wednesday is that the city and developers are receptive to the idea of building a new downtown arena with or without the Kings. He said investors have told him the market is now strong enough that it makes sense to do so.

“What has become very clear to me is that all the ownership groups we are talking to recognize this is a strong NBA market,” he said.

WATCH: Mayor’s Press Conference

As to the site of the proposed arena, he said too that the location would likely depend on the development group. The railyards was to be the location of the $391 million arena deal the Maloof family walked away from last year, but JMA Ventures, which owns the Downtown Plaza, said earlier this month that it has studied building an arena there.

Johnson on Tuesday introduced 19 local $1 million investors and said a 20th committed to him after his afternoon press conference at City Hall. On Wednesday, he’s scheduled to talk about the second of his four-point “Play to Win” plan to prevent the Kings from moving to Seattle after this season.

His four points are identifying limited local investors, identifying a major investment source, committing to a new downtown arena and showcasing the Sacramento region as a proven NBA market.

Johnson has been working feverishly since news broke Sunday night that the Maloofs had entered a sales agreement with a Seattle group led by Chris Hansen to sell their majority interest in the Kings. Hansen’s group has approval to build a new downtown arena in Seattle if it secures an NBA franchise.

The sale requires approval by the NBA Board of Governors and a vote is expected when the league owners meet in April. The Kings are expected to file for relocation by the March 1 deadline. The team would play two seasons at KeyArena, the former home of the SuperSonics, while the new arena is being built. The Sonics moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.

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